By Mark Zeh
This year’s Textile Roofs Workshop took place between 3–5 June in Berlin. This was the 15th anniversary for the event hosted by Prof. Dr.-Ing. Dr. h.c. Lothar Gründig at the Technische Universität Berlin, Germany. This year it was co-hosted by Prof. Dr.-Ing. Rosemarie Wagner of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and Prof. Dr.-Ing. Joachim Bahndorf of the University of Applied Sciences Bielefeld, both also located in Germany. The conference, conducted in English, attracted attendees from a variety of lands, including Russia, India, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Switzerland, Finland, Spain and France.
The Textile Roofs Workshop consists of two parallel components: a professional conference, a comprehensive series of lectures and activities led by academic and industry experts; and a student seminar on a particular design theme. The mornings and early afternoons of the professional component were devoted to presentations of current academic thinking, state-of-the-art project work and introductions to new developments in computational design tools. The afternoons were split into three strands: hands-on workshops on physical modeling, use of various computational modeling tools, or specialist presentations on a variety of topics.
Highlights from this year’s workshop included presentations on design principles from Dr. Josep I. Llorens, University of Catalonia, Barcelona, Spain, and a presentation of recent research from Dr. Rosemarie Wagner from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Karlsruhe, Germany. Jürgen Hennicke, of the University Stuttgart and TU Vienna, gave two interesting talks: “Visions-Ideas-Projects,” an homage to Frei Otto, and the closing presentation of the workshop, covering significant thinking and projects in the industrial development of membrane architecture. Another highlight was a presentation by Dirk P. Emmer, of Vector Foiltec GmbH, and Dipl.-Ing. Jörg Tritthardt, of Büro für Leichtbau, on the selection of materials and engineering design of a complex retractable roof for the Athens Heart Shopping Center. A presentation with relevance to some current themes in architecture was given by Magnus Vohn, of Ferrari Architecture and Stamoid AG, who showed projects using Ferrari’s Façade system and discussed the energy use and recycling dimensions of the sustainability of this new system.
This year’s workshop seems to have marked the emergence of computational design techniques as a maturing, reliable technology. Computational methods and software development have evolved to the level where physical modeling work can now be conducted as verification rather than generative work for many basic structure types. This is a major breakthrough for membrane architecture because it increases the accessibility to design and construct membrane structures.